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This blog was started in May 2012, one month before the United Nations Rio+20 ‘Earth Summit’ where the green economy was the main theme. The blog so far has had three specific objectives.

In the run-up to the Rio+20 Summit the initial objective was to raise awareness of Africa’s huge green growth potential and role in rebalancing the global economy. Eight posts were published before the Summit and were sent to as many African environment ministries as possible. One post was published in August 2012 appraising the summit and Africa’s position: Africa, Rio+20 and the Green Road Ahead.

The second objective was to examine the case of Ethiopia, following the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi on 21 August 2012. At the time of his death Mr Meles was recognised as 'the voice of Africa' at international summits and conferences and a leader in Africa's green thinking. Four posts on Ethiopia were published between late August and early November 2012 exploring the paradoxical nature of his leadership with a focus on raising awareness of his green legacy and 21st century vision for Ethiopia and Africa.

The third and current objective is to raise awareness of the importance of the green economy in Africa's growth story. 2013 started with unprecedented optimism for Africa’s growth prospects. Summits, conferences, articles, books, blogs, films and other media now proclaim that 'Africa’s Moment' has arrived. But very few even mention the green economy as an essential tool in the process to achieve sustainability and resilience. For this reason the current focus of this blog is a call to action to 'put the green economy into Africa’s growth story'.

Part of this call to action is writing letters to the Financial Times. Not only does the FT have excellent coverage of Africa but it is also seen by many as the 'world's most influential newspaper'.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


De-Risking Africa was the title of the main session on Africa at the 2013 World Economic in Davos, Switzerland. On 23 January a distinguished panel, including two African presidents, two from the private sector and one human rights lawyer met to discuss ways Africa's leaders are mitigating risk on the continent.

Investor confidence is crucial to Africa’s remarkable growth story which has reached a critical stage: ‘Africa is the last frontier for investment’; ‘Africa is the new engine of global growth’; ‘Africa will feed the world’; ‘Africa will rule the 21st century’. By 2050, Africa’s economy, some say, could be worth $29 trillion, more than the US and EU combined. If this is to be ‘Africa’s Moment’, risk is a key issue, not only for investors but for the global economy.

Although most panellists were not keen on the “de-risking” title they put forward some good arguments and reasons to believe that Africa’s risks could be managed and therefore mitigated. Presidents Jacob Zuma (South Africa) and Goodluck Jonathon (Nigeria) added that investments worldwide were risky and Africa was no more risky than anywhere else. Among the areas singled out for attention were: continued economic growth, infrastructure, agriculture, communications, governance, democratic decision-making, intra-Africa trade, education, youth employment schemes and labour relations.

However, with a few adjustments here and there, this discussion could have taken place 40 years ago.  It seemed to assume business-as-usual would continue. There was no mention of climate change which is the biggest risk factor in Africa. Neither was there any mention of the green economy as the only long-term, viable means to manage risk in the 21st century, not only in Africa but worldwide. Although Africa’s “economic transformation” was cited at Davos as necessary for mitigating risk there was no hint that Africa’s Green Revolution and the green economy it is building could play a central role. Instead the Grand Inga dam on the Congo River was hailed as a mega project that will change the economic landscape of Africa.

In any human endeavor risk is caused by unknowns. In modern accounting systems based on Gross Domestic Product the unknowns are the hidden costs of economic growth not measured by GDP. In Africa, as we have seen in the past, the hidden costs of the current development model, or business-as-usual, can be rapid and severe. A major hidden cost is inequality which, according to international institutions including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Africa Progress Panel, is already threatening Africa’s growth.

Among the many definitions a green economy is an economy where the hidden costs of growth – environmental, social and even long-term economic - are accounted for and minimised. Mitigating risk means mitigating hidden costs and the only known way to do this is by building green economies, something Africans have been working towards for the past 20 years in their ‘quiet revolution’. The culmination of the continent’s green progress was Africa’s Consensus to the UN’s Rio+20 ‘Earth Summit’ last June, a once-in-a generation event where the global green economy was the main theme.

Africa’s 13-page statement, which outlined the continent’s challenges, achievements and huge green growth potential, was virtually ignored by the rest of the world. More worrying still is that, with few exceptions, Africa’s green economy is absent in the programmes of the major summits and conferences on Africa this year.

One of the most interesting comments at the Davos session came from Rwanda president, Paul Kagame, who was in the audience. “For me the major problem I see is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else and not by Africans themselves,” said Kagame amid applause from the audience including several African leaders and business executives. “…That is why the rest of the world looks at Africa and Africans, and wants to define us. They want to shape the perception about Africa.”

If this is to be Africa's Moment, this is the moment for Africans to tell their green growth story to the world. Putting the green economy into Africa’s growth story through this year’s international meetings on Africa could be one of the most effective ways to accelerate an essential and urgent process that will ultimately benefit us all. This is moment for Africa's 'green explorers' to speak up.

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